Led by spiritual leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy, tribal leaders from across Turtle Island (North America) gathered on Logan Pass in Glacier National Park on Friday, August 12 to hold a prayer ceremony for the sacred grizzly bear. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is about to publish its revised grizzly bear delisting rule for Greater Yellowstone that would remove federal protections from the Great Bear considered sacred by tribes from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande. Stripping the grizzly of federal protections will enable the states of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to open trophy hunts on the most iconic being in the most iconic landscape on the continent. “Our brother, the grizzly bear, is the power of our people. He is the only brother that was a human being in his time on Mother Earth. The grizzly bear is not only equal to, but also far superior to us pitiful humans. To kill the grizzly is to kill our own kind,” explains James “Jimmy” St. Goddard, a traditional chief of the Blackfeet Nation and Vice Chairman of GOAL (Guardians of Our Ancestors’ Legacy) Tribal Coalition.
Tribal Nations opposed to the delisting and trophy hunting of the sacred grizzly have coalesced around GOAL, presently the largest tribal coalition in North America, and which is about to launch the GOAL Global initiative. GOAL’s Chairman, David Bearshield, will be in attendance. In addition to Chief St. Goddard and Chairman Bearshield, Chief Bryan Yellowhorn from the Blackfoot Confederacy, Chief Dancing Thunder, a leader from the Iroquois Confederacy, and Carol Bubay, elder and matriarch from the Flathead Indian Reservation, will be among those participating in the ceremony. The traditional tribal leaders are gathering in a demonstration of solidarity after Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Vice President, Tom Poor, officially called for a Congressional investigation into the conduct of the USFWS in its drive to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Tribal leaders have exposed that USFWS contracted multinational oil and gas services group, Amec Foster Wheeler, for the peer review of its delisting rule. In April, Amec Foster and Wheeler, appointed Halliburton executive Jonathan Lewis as CEO.
Central to the Oglala Sioux’s original complaint are ties between a USFWS grizzly delisting official, Matt Hogan, and trophy hunting juggernaut, Safari Club International, and Hogan’s connection to multinational energy company, Anadarko Petroleum and Gas. Anadarko describes itself as, “one of the largest landowners and leaseholders in the state of Wyoming,” and is one of the biggest campaign finance contributors to Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead, and Senator Mike Enzi, Senator John Barrasso, and Representative Lummis of Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, all of whom have aggressively promoted the grizzly delisting agenda and the dismantling of the ESA. “This speaks for itself. How can anybody think that a multinational in the energy business run by a former Halliburton executive can execute a credible peer review process of a delisting rule of this magnitude when the agency in question, USFWS, speaks of 28 mines waiting to be developed and become operational in Greater Yellowstone upon the delisting of the grizzly,” says GOAL Chairman Bearshield. GOAL has demonstrated that if the grizzly is delisted, restrictions on some 2 million acres of land considered sacred by over 26 Tribal Nations will be lifted, leading to energy, livestock and timber leases being issued.
“Quite simply, the delisting announcement ensures that the grizzly bear will never be a recovered species. This is all political smoke and mirrors,” insists Bearshield. “Tribal nations are the only hope for linkage zones between the two main grizzly populations. Any migration will cease as soon as the grizzly is trophy hunted,” he predicts.
Tribal nations oppose the delisting and trophy hunting of the grizzly bear on the basis of sovereignty, treaty, spiritual, and religious freedom violations. “Our ceremonies and traditions, and our religious and spiritual rights, are inseparable from the grizzly bear. Our sacred rights mixed with the grizzly bear are a powerful force, insurmountable to any who oppose us,” says Chief St. Goddard, “what is happening with GOAL is Creator’s wish. It is a new awakening for indigenous people.” Previously, St. Goddard (Eesukyah – “Sacred Holy Paint Gatherer”) was spiritual advisor to the late Eloise Cobell, a Blackfeet tribal member who led a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 500,000 Natives against the Interior Department that yielded one of history’s largest government settlements.
USFWS and the State of Montana intend to delist the grizzlies of Glacier, the Blackfeet Nation, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nations of Montana next. The latest scientific findings into the combined Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly population have demonstrated that USFWS’s population projections are both inaccurate and fatally flawed. Beyond the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park, the NCDE is categorized as “a major mortality sink.” At the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition it was estimated that 100,000 grizzly bears inhabited the lands of the Tribal Nations west of the Missouri River. Today, fewer than 2,000 grizzlies survive in the lower 48, ostensibly in two island populations in Yellowstone and Glacier.